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2018 Game VII: Iowa State vs. Texas Tech Football Preview

It’s time to feast on TACO (Tech)

Iowa State v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

2018 Game VII: Iowa State (3-3, 2-2) vs. Texas Tech (5-2, 3-1)

Date: Saturday October 27, 2018

Time: 11:00 A.M. CST

Location: MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

Capacity: 61,500

Line: ISU -3.5

Television: ESPN2

Radio: Cyclone Radio Network

Game Notes/Release

Texas Tech Game Notes

SB Nation Website - Viva the Matadors

Does everyone remember in the classic 1990s Oregon Trail game how hard it was to traverse across the Midwest amongst snakes, bears, rivers, and deadly dysentery?

For all you millennials that never got the opportunity to play the Apple II computer, you probably have no idea what this image means. Something as simple as turning a floppy disc over was how us kids played games back in the day.

For this Iowa State football program (like the deadly Oregon Trail), they just endured the hardest and toughest part of their schedule, and are now heading into the latter half of the season with a boatload of confidence.

The Cyclones will be favored in all games but one – at Texas on November 17th. Now coach Campbell will tell you like everyone else, that this ISU football team will take every week, one game at a time. I have no doubts he will get the boys ready to play, and we will see the fruits of their labor as we move forward.

When we last left off….

Wasn’t that fun? Iowa State dominated in orderly fashion against a West Virginia team that was ranked #6 in the country, and it wasn’t even close.

The Cyclone defense kept Will Grier and company on their toes with multiple looks, blitzes, and coverage schemes, and it worked to perfection. Defensive Coordinator Jon Heacock deserves all the credit in the world, as Iowa State held a top-5 offense to 152 yards, 3.6 yards per play, and 7 points scored.

David Montgomery came back from injury and was the best player on the field, rushing for 189 yards, and an impressive EIGHT carries of 10-plus yards. He had defenders on skates, and ran behind an offensive line that is beginning to gel at the right time of the season.

All in all, it was a fun night – as the Cyclones beat WVU 30-14, and more importantly, have created their own destiny with all winnable games in the future.

Texas Tech Tidbits

Texas Tech v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This Texas Tech team may have the same coach as before, but they are quite different than in years past. Previous teams only cared about offense, offense, and more offense; but this year Kingsbury has understood the importance of managing the clock, running the football, and playing defense.

Possibly the biggest surprise is Time of Possession. The Red Raiders rank fourth amongst Power-5 programs with an average of 34 minutes per game. That does two things – wears down the opponent, and rests your defense. In year’s past, Tech would have been near the bottom in T.O.P., as their offense would score too fast, and the defense faltered because of it.

The other big change is the defense, as Tech has the third-best rushing defense, and forced the second-most turnovers in the Big 12. They are led by coordinator David Gibbs, who in his unprecedented fourth year at the position has helped the Red Raiders in allowing only 20 second-half points in their last four games combined.

All of this shows us a 5-2 program who has two big wins on the road (TCU and Okie State), and a shot at the upper half of the Big 12.

The Series

Just like every other series, Texas Tech leads the all-time matchup at 11-5, with ISU winning the last two by a combined score of 97-23. Needless to say, Matt Campbell has Kliff Kingsbury’s number so far…

Iowa State Offense

Back-to-back Big-12 Newcomer of The Week Brock Purdy will get his third start in a Cyclone uniform and has a tough task at hand against a solid Tech defense. I have been tremendously impressed by Purdy’s ability to stand in the pocket and make throws under pressure. The Red Raiders have a stout front line, but have yet to garner much pressure on passing downs. Look for Purdy to recognize one-on-one coverages for Butler, as he took advantage of every one of those opportunities against WVU.

First Key to Victory – Tick Tick Tick that Clock

Hitting his stride at the best time of year is none other than stellar running back David Montgomery. Finally (and long overdue) has been the offensive line’s ability to give the DM Train open holes, as he scampered for four 20-plus runs two weeks ago. With Tech typically manhandling time of possession, it will be paramount for Campbell and company to create their own tempo and control the clock.

I was quite impressed with the progression of this offensive line, as they have had the same starting five for four straight contests. I also very much enjoyed the two-tight end sets and bowling-ball Sam Seonbuchner in there as lead blocker. The motions and shifts disguised DM’s runs and allowed for more open space in the second levels.

The two-headed monster of Purdy’s arm and legs has kept the defense on their heels and allowed the running game to flourish as of late. Look for Kene Nwangwu to continue to see snaps, and a few Tarique Milton and Deshaunte Jones jet sweeps to keep the defense honest.

Texas Tech has veteran safeties, but their corners are young, and their best one (a freshman), will most likely be matched up on Hakeem Butler. #18 can break the game wide open, as he leads the Big 12 in yards per reception at just under 20 yards per catch. One player I have harped on (and rightly so) who could have a breakout game - is wide receiver Matthew Eaton. With the slow tempo and Tech’s bend-but-don’t break defense we will most likely see long sustaining drives with 3rd-and-shorts and multiple red-zone opportunities. Eaton had a coming out party last year against the Red Raiders to the tune of TWO touchdowns. I could see the same happening on Saturday.

Texas Tech Defense

We don’t typically talk about Texas Tech favorably when it comes to defense, as in years past they were the sacrificial lamb for all Big 12 jokes. After hiring and firing coordinators every year for what seemed like a decade, Tech has finally found a good one in David Gibbs, as he came over from Houston four years ago. They are known for forcing turnovers, and have forced 12 on the year.

The Red Raiders run a 4-2-5 nickel scheme that is quite similar to (Genius) Jon Heacock, and are multiple in their sets. They are led by Last Chance U transfer linebacker Dakota Allen who originally enrolled in Lubbock, got kicked off the team, and then came back after a stint at the critically-acclaimed junior college. Allen does it all for this defense, leading them in tackles, and is 2nd in tackles-for-loss and quarterback hurries.

His counterpart – linebacker Jordyn Brooks is second in stops, and had this season-defining interception in the TCU game.

The defensive front doesn’t have any world-beaters, just big boys with their hard hats on. Their 3rd-ranked rush defense is led by seniors Preston Gordon and Kolin Hill. Look out for rush ends Eli Howard and Tony Jones (especially on 3rd downs), who combine for 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss.

In fact, the Red Raiders have been astonishingly efficient on 3rd down conversions, allowing only 31%, which is good for 20th in country.

The secondary is led by veteran safety Jah’Shawn Johnson who is a turnover-forcing machine. By the time he graduates, Johnson will be top-10 in school history in tackles, and has been a part of an impressive 17 takeaways in his career. The pass defense for the Red Raiders has been the weak link thus far, as they allow over 288 yards per game through the air (worst in Big 12).

That freshman cornerback I mentioned earlier leads the Big 12 in both pass-breakups AND interceptions, and was named Midseason 2nd Team All-American by the Associated Press. Adrian Frye is what he goes by, and he will be a household name for years to come in Texas.

In conclusion, this defense is scrappy at forcing turnovers, have cleaned up their missed tackles, and can stop the run, but is bad as Keystone Light at stopping the pass.

The Verdict – ISU by a Nose

I think Iowa State matches up well against this defense. Here is an interesting statistic – while Tech gives up the most passing yards per game (288), they are still the best in forcing incompletions (54% completion rate). Purdy will be given opportunities to make throws to his wideouts, and look for a resurgence from the tight ends in Chase Allen and Charlie Kolar.

Second Key to Victory – Put up 7s in Red Zone

I think this will be a knock-down drag-out fight with both teams displaying tremendous physicality. Iowa State will get few chances to score (as I see a lower-scoring affair), and it will be important for the Cyclones to get the ball to their playmakers in the red zone.

Iowa State Defense

This ISU defense will go down as one of the best this school has ever had. Iowa State ranks at the top in the Big 12 in rushing defense, total defense, and is second in sacks, scoring defense and pass defense. Needless to say – coordinator Jon Heacock deserves recognition for the job he has done.

What makes the Cyclone defense so lethal is their multiplicity and different calls they can make. The versatility of the back end should not go unnoticed, as ISU has corners playing safety, and safeties playing nickel. There is no drop off in talent, and Brian Peavy’s ability to shut down top receivers is the first piece to the puzzle.

Third Key to Victory – Safety Help on Tech’s TWIN TOWERS

Peavy and Payne will have their hands full with two of the biggest playmakers Iowa State will face all year – in 6-foot-5 Antoine Wesley and 6-foot-6 T.J. Vasher. Both have an innate ability to catch the ball at its peak, so look for safety help over the top. That is where safeties Greg Eisworth and Braxton Lewis come into play. Free safety Lawrence White should be back on the field after a nagging ankle injury.

The one unit I have been most surprised by – are the linebackers. There is no drop off in talent from 1st to 2nd string, and all SIX linebackers have had their moments. With Tech beginning to focus on the run game, look for middle linebacker Mike Rose to eat it up in the tackle column, as well as Marcel Spears, Jr. who has been the forgotten one of the bunch.

The defensive line should have Ray Lima back, but if he can’t go – it appears Jamahl Johnson is up to the task. The Red Raiders like to split teams out, and penetrate defenses on the edge in the run game. That calls for fundamentally sound play from the ends – especially Jaquan Bailey, who tends to over-pursue.

I foresee Iowa State continuing to dial up the blitzes – especially since Taco Tech serves true freshmen quarterbacks for supper. Look for the safeties to stay back in coverage, which will force the front to hold its own in the rushing game. (Guess what – they can).

Texas Tech Offense

The Red Raiders have played musical chairs when it comes to the quarterback position all year. They started the season with McLane Carter, and after an ankle sprain in the first game, was forced to put in true freshman Alan Bowman. All Bowman did against Houston two weeks later was put up 605 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Then Bowman suffers a collapsed lung and in comes a freshman with one of the greatest names of all time – Jett Duffey. Duffey ends up marching a huge comeback against WVU, only to fall short, but is able to lead Taco Tech to a victory over TCU. While Jett is the better runner (led team in rushing yds in all games he has played), Bowman is a much more polished passer. He showed that against KU last week – completing 37 of 48 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns.

Bowman will start the game on Saturday, and has multiple threats at his disposal – but none better than Antoine Wesley. The junior leads the Big 12 in receptions AND yards, and is fourth in league in touchdowns. Not far behind him is 6-foot-6 big-play threat T.J. Vasher, who averages nearly 16 yards per catch. The third amigo (as all three combine for 65% of passing yards), is slasher Ja’Deion High, who is the slot/possession receiver for Kingsbury and his potent passing attack.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges a year ago was patchworking a young offensive line, but in 2018 all five linemen returned, and thus far have only allowed nine sacks in six games. They have never seen the likes of ISU’s disguised blitzes though, so watch out.

Texas Tech has surprisingly become a solid running team, with 22 rushing touchdowns, and a bevy of different backs to choose from. True freshman Ta’Zhawn Henry (who was in ISU’s top-3 as recruit) leads the team in yards and touchdowns, but there are four more running backs with over 100 yards on the year. Coach Kliff uses all of them in different ways.

Verdict – EVEN

This will be the matchup of the day – pitting the Big 12’s Number ONE offense against Number ONE defense.

Those wide receivers scare the be-jeez-us out of me, but I’m happy to say that Payne and Peavy can hold their own. Since the safeties are always playing back, it will put a ton of pressure on the front six to contain the rushing game, and if their backup QB Duffey comes in – watch out.

Taco Tech will pull out all the tricks and stop at nothing to surprise Campbell and company. I just think ISU can counter-attack and will be fundamental enough to have their defenders in the right place at the right time.

Special Teams

The Red Raiders field-goal kicker is 9-for-10 on the year, and their Australian punter Panazzolo has not allowed more than THREE returns all year.

Their return man De’Quan Bowman has FOUR such returns of 40-yards or more, and has the ability to break one. I will project the Cyclones pooch kick to him as they did against TCU.

Iowa State’s very own Kene Nwangwu (when given the opportunity) has stretched the field, but most teams shy away from giving him that chance.

Connor Assalley is coming off his worst performance of the year, missing three kicks against WVU. It will be important for him to get his confidence back – as we will need him in pressure situations the rest of the year.

Verdict – EVEN

Both units are solid, and have momentum changers in return game.

Winning Scale from 1 to 10

I think this game will be a lot closer and a lot more low-scoring than people think. Vegas has the over/under tabbed at 56, and with these two better-than-average defenses, I’d bet the under. With that being said, on a scale from 1 to 10, with a 1 being Antarctic cold, and 10 being Death Valley hot, I give Iowa State’s chance of winning in the Brazilian region.

Final Analysis

This matchup will expose Kliff Kingsbury and his coaching negligence. Texas Tech has been called for the most penalties in the Big 12 and have a LOT OF YOUNG players on their roster. It’s the little things that Iowa State does right, and that’s why Campbell and company have dominated this short-lived series.

I see the same happening on Saturday, with a balanced attack of DM Train and Hakeem Butler, while the defense forces turnovers against a true freshman on the road, and Iowa State pulls out their third straight victory.

Final Score

Iowa State 24

Texas Tech 17

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